It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty, but the Washington Capitals finally found a way to down the Stars in Dallas. The winning recipe involved a great goaltending performance, naturally, and Philipp Grubauer delivered on that count. It also called for some clutch penalty killing, some relentless play from the bottom six, a couple of power-play strikes and an overtime goal from Jay Beagle.
Video: Beagle, Grubauer power the Caps past the Stars in OT
Pretty simple, really, and it all added up to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Stars here in Texas on Saturday night, achieved despite a two-goal hole at the outset of the final period. The victory was the Caps' first over the Stars anywhere since Oct. 25, 2008, when they won a 6-5 overtime game here on a Saturday night.
"We talked about checking it off the list," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "It is something that this organization needs to come in here and win a game. We haven't done that for a long time. Check it off; we got it done.
For the 10th straight game, the Caps got on the board first. For the fifth straight game, it was a bottom six forward scoring the game's first goal for Washington, and for the fourth straight game, it was Andre Burakovsky specifically scoring the game's first goal for Washington.
Burakovsky won the puck along the half wall in Dallas ice and fed it to the slot for Dmitry Orlov, who left it for Brett Connolly. Connolly fired from there, and Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen made the stop. But as soon as Brett Ritchie collected the rebound, Burakovsky picked his pocket and quickly fired it past Lehtonen for a 1-0 Washington lead at 2:17 of the first.
Seconds later, the Caps got into some deep penalty trouble. Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen was sent off for sailing the puck over the glass at 2:41, and when Daniel Winnik was sent off for the same violation just 37 seconds later, the Capitals found themselves facing a five-on-three Dallas power play for 83 seconds.
Washington limited the Stars to just two shots on net during the five-on-three, getting two stops from goaltender Philipp Grubauer, a couple of shot blocks and a couple of key face-off wins to get through that stretch unscathed.
But just over a minute later, the Stars pulled even. Adam Cracknell provided a screen in front, and he got a piece of a Jordie Benn right point shot to make it a 1-1 game at 6:26 of the first.
Video: Trotz talks after a 4-3 OT/win vs. the Dallas Stars
"I didn't like the first part of the game," says Trotz. "We weren't playing with a lot of bite, we got the first goal. I thought our penalty kill [on the ] five-on-three was perfect. They did an outstanding job, we get the building quiet and then we give it right back and [the Stars] score to tie it up. I thought they got momentum from that and they forechecked hard. We didn't execute, we had some real grade A chances and we sort of just missed the net."
The Caps put on a surge late in the first, but were even 1-1 heading into the middle frame. The Stars scored twice to forge a 3-1 lead in the second, getting a Patrick Eaves rebound goal at 6:47, and a Jamie Benn back door tap-in with just two seconds remaining on a Dallas power play at 15:59.
Washington issued a video challenge on the Benn goal, alleging goaltender interference. But officials ruled the goal would stand, putting the Caps down a pair late in the period. To make matters worse, Orlov incurred a double-minor for hi-sticking Jamie Benn just 40 seconds after the third Dallas goal.
Grubauer and the Capitals' penalty killers did their job once again, killing off the fourth and fifth Stars power plays of the night while the Caps waited for their first.
Early in the third, the Caps finally got that long awaited extra man opportunity, and they made good on it.
With Curtis McKenzie off for hi-sticking, Alex Ovechkin rammed a one-timer from his office through Lehtonen at 3:18 to shave the Stars' advantage to a single goal.
Half a minute later, Antoine Roussel hi-sticked Caps defenseman Karl Alzner to put Washington right back on the power play. Once again, the Capitals exploited the league's second-worst penalty killing outfit.
This time, ex-Star Niskanen pounded a shot from center point, and T.J. Oshie tipped it past Lehtonen to square the score at 3-3 with 14:34 still remaining in regulation.
Washington had to snuff out a phantom holding call on Taylor Chorney near the midpoint of the final frame, and it took a brilliant Grubauer stop on Tyler Seguin to get it done.
Evgeny Kuznetsov blazed down the right side and into Dallas ice, carrying down to the goal line before feeding a following Beagle to the front. Beagle made no mistake, firing the puck past Lehtonen from close range to put Washington in the win column in what has been a tough town for the Capitals.
Video: Caps talk with the media after 4-3 OTW in Dallas
"It was obviously huge," says Beagle. "Our power play got some chances and got two big goals. It just was never a doubt. We're playing good right now, we're playing confident. We came in here at the second intermission and said were taking this over and we're going to win. That's the kind of confidence you have to play with and obviously a lot of resiliency."
The Caps are now 12-5 in Mentors' Trip games since 2008. And they earned just their fourth win ever in 17 games in Dallas. Washington extended its points streak to 13; the Caps are 11-0-2 over that span.
"We have a great group," says Trotz. "Our guys responded, the power play got us back in it and in overtime a guy that was great on the penalty kill, Jay Beagle, scores the game-winner.
"A good night for us. It was a good night for the dads; we had a lot of fun after. There were a couple promises from the dads so we were making sure that they paid up. One of the dads always has a traditional dance and then we had another put down some push-ups. It was pretty good. They were carrying them around the room, so it was awesome."